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The Tower of London - a brilliant place to become immersed in British history for all the family
The Tower of London
Member Name: dippycat
The Tower of London
Advantages: lots to see, great displays and knowledgable staff
Disadvantages: lots of stairs
History is my daughter's favourite subject at school so when I was planning a short break to cheer us up, London sprang to mind and I thought that we had to go to the Tower of London.
It can be quite expensive to get in: adults are £17, children are £9.50 (under 5s free), OAPs and students are £14.50, a family (up to 2 adults and 6 children) £47. There is a slightly discounted price if you book online in advance although this discount is only either £1 or 50p!
If you look on the days out guide website (www.daysoutguide.co.uk), you can download a voucher which will give you two for one if you have travelled there by train. You need to show your train ticket and hand the voucher in to get the discount.
Getting to the Tower of London is pretty easy: you can get the tube to Tower Hill (circle or district line zone 1) or it is a short walk from London Bridge or Fenchurch Street train stations (directions are given on the Tower website).
As soon as we arrived, we had a tour with one of the Yeoman Guards, otherwise known as Beefeaters. These are free and last about 45 minutes. There was a huge crowd with the one we had and although the man had a loud voice, you needed to make sure that you were in front of him to hear everything that he had to say. I can highly recommend that you go on one of these tours and this will help you plan the rest of your visit. My daughter was particularly impressed with seeing where Anne Boleyn was executed and buried (children always like the gory stuff!).
It is possible to get an audio guide that will give you information about the Tower as you walk around. These cost £4. We didn't get one of these so I cannot comment on how useful they are unfortunately.
After our tour around with the guard we decided to go into the White Tower. This is where the Kings and Queens of England used to live and is an absolutely enormous and impressive buidling. It is being renovated at the moment so prepare for scaffolding and covers on half of the outside. Inside the building is housed the Royal Armouries - well, some of it as the rest of it is in the Royal Armouries in Leeds. King Henry VIII's armour was interesting to look at. There are lots of guns and swords which, to be honest, was not mine or my daughter's cup of tea, but I am sure that there are plenty of people who would be interested in this area of the museum.
One aspect which we both liked was the bit about the Royal Mint, which used to be based in the Tower. I learned that 240 pennies made up one pound and weighed the same as one pound of silver!
We went in to see the Crown Jewels and was pleasantly surprised to find that there were no queues (I have a lasting memory of queuing for what seemed like hours as a child). There are short films for you to watch which show the jewels and the context they are used in before you get to see the actual ones.
After coming out of here, we went to have a look in another tower which has graffiti on the walls from the thousands of prisoners who were locked up in the tower. Interestingly, apparently only 10 people (including Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey) were ever actually executed within the Tower walls and there is a monument on the green to these people. We also visited the Bloody Tower, so named because it is where the two Princes were imprisoned and murdered. There is a display telling you more about this event in history and you are invited to vote on what you think really happened to these two boys.
We did try to get into the Wakefield Tower where there are supposedly some of the torture devices used in the Tower (the actual torture chamber is now the gift shop in the basement of the White Tower - insert appropriate comment here!), but we couldn't find the entrance and by that time my daughter had had enough.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Tower of London. There are lots of stairs to climb so it may not be the best place for people who have mobility issues. There is information on the Tower website which gives information for people who have mobility issues or are visually impaired.
I would recommend putting aside a day to visit and have a break, a picnic or visit one of the cafes on the site before continuing your explorations.
The website for this attraction is also well worth a look at before you go (www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon) for extra information, children's trails to print and a variety of possible itineries depending on how much time you have available.
Summary: A great day out for all the family
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